This 60-minute, late-night magic show is exactly what it should be: funny, lively, intimate, and utterly baffling. House Theatre of Chicago member Dennis Watkins blends quick-witted improv and physical comedy with freewheeling patter as he performs classic illusions. Though his sleight-of-hand is impossibly subtle, it was the mind reading tricks that seemed to have drawn several inquisitive skeptics back for another look on the night I attended. A curio-shop intimacy and cash bar encourage audience participation, and Watkins, with his Eagle Scout looks, clearly takes a mischievous pleasure in the unexpected. Just let your cell phone go off during the show and see what kind of fun he has. --Keith Griffith $75
I know it'll seem incomprehensible to you fans of talking turds, but I've never paid Comedy Central's South Park much mind one way or another. And when New York fell all over itself last year appreciating The Book of Mormon, I wondered if there wasn't just a smidge of hyperbole in calling the musical by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone (along with Robert Lopez) the best of the "century." Now that I've seen the Chicago production, however, I've been—well—converted. A wise mix of nasty satire and compassionate truth telling, Parker, Stone, and Lopez's tale of Mormon missionaries in Uganda is as entertaining—and, strangely, uplifting—a piece of work as anything in recent American theater. Although the book draws whole quivers full of big red arrows to everything that's ludicrous about the Mormon way, it also ends up making a case for the hope we all derive from silly myths. Meanwhile, playful as it is, it ranks up there with Lynn Nottage's Ruined in exposing the danger, dignity, and distortions of African life. The cast is uniformly and perfectly seductive. And is that Steppenwolf's famously earnest James Vincent Meredith, showing a new side of himself as the Ugandan village chief? Incredible. —Tony Adler $65-$125
In 1938, Talladega College commissioned the Harlem Renaissance artist Hale Aspacio Woodruff to paint six murals to hang in a campus library. Three tell the story of the slave ship Amistad: an onboard mutiny, the trial of the captives, and their eventual return to Africa. Three more depict the Underground Railroad; the first day of student registration at Talladega, one of the country's first all-black colleges, in Alabama in 1867; and the building of Savery Library, the eventual home of Woodruff's work, in 1937. Woodruff's vibrant, large-scale murals were influenced by American regionalist style, a Mexican sojourn during which he apprenticed to Diego Rivera, and the cubism he studied in Paris. He returned from France in 1931 to chair the first art department for African-American students at Atlanta University; also in the 30s, Woodruff, who was born in Cairo, Illinois, painted murals for the Works Progress Administration. He went on to teach at Spelman College, Clark University, and at Talladega before joining the art faculty of New York University, where he taught until his retirement. In 2011, Atlanta's High Museum of Art collaborated with Talladega College on an extensive conservation project to prepare the murals for a multicity your, removing them from Savery Library for the first time. At the Chicago Cultural Center they'll hang alongside other, smaller paintings and prints from throughout Woodruff's career. —Janet Potter
A happy hour for dog owners with dog-related boutiques, vendors, shelters, and other businesses.
Abandon your regular lunchtime smoke break, nap, or illicit tryst for something a bit classier. Join the Chicago Chamber Musicans as they present First Monday, a monthly lunch-hour concert series. This month features cafe music by Astor Piazzolla and Paul Schoenfield. —Jamie Keiles
Watching Supernatural Chicago in any month that isn't October is kind of like visiting Santa at the mall in June. But even in early spring, you might find more people than there are seats at Neil Tobin's one-man magic-act-cum-local-history-lesson, in the dark former storage area (I mean, Indian burial ground) of Excalibur Nightclub's basement. I wouldn't trade the off-season showing for anything—there's nothing else like 20 strangers holding hands to conjure up the spirit of a dead suburban teenager, while Tobin walks around waving his hands over everybody. Yes, the show is cheesy, and, no, it didn't convert me, but that's what makes it good theater. After all, it wouldn't be any fun to hear a haunted rehash of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre if you really suspected that Al Capone's ghost was in the seat next to you. — Hannah Gold $25 (includes two drinks and admission to dance club)
Given the cultural ascent of really good TV, it's surprising that there aren't more efforts, like this one, to adapt the serial structure to the stage. In Coriolis Theater's live "pilot" episode, angry 99-percenter Coco returns to Chicago from a six-month stint with Occupy Wall Street—to the surprise of her roommate Maggie, who's more inclined to occupy the couch and watch American Idol. There's little plot or action, but these 50 minutes do the one thing a pilot must: establish interesting characters you want to see again. Grayson Vreeland's cast is already more realistically diverse and relatable than the white-bread lineups you find on most young-adult urban sitcoms. If the show's writers develop compelling story lines for them, they might earn the repeat following that Coriolis is banking on. —Keith Griffith $10-$15
Chicago Public Radio's satirical twist on the classic quiz show is taped before a live audience. Host Peter Sagal and crew mine news stories for quiz questions, with different panelists from the worlds of literature and entertainment and audience members participating each week. Politics supply the jokes du jour, but what happens off microphone is often funnier. —Ryan Hubbard $24.75
Clothes from around the world, as curated by Maria Pinto. Opens Fri 9/14.